Couldn’t stop crying even after director called cut: Aishwarya Lekshmi talks about her cinematic career
Aishwarya Lekshmi talks about her love for cinema that set her on a unique journey from being a doctor, to becoming a model-turned-actor-turned-producer
A doctor-turned-model, a model-turned-actor, and now an actor-turned producer... Aishwarya Lekshmi’s cinematic journey is marked by assent and milestones. Apprehensive parents and a lack of connection in the industry haven’t stopped Aishwarya, known by her first name, even if they were impeding factors. “My parents, both of whom were government officials, are still not pleased about me being in the cinema. They don’t say anything anymore because they can see I’m happy,” says the actor. This Thiruvananthapuram girl, who graduated from Sree Narayana Institute of Medical Sciences (SNIMS), Ernakulam in 2017, switched from medicine to movies and doesn’t regret the decision. Responding to a casting call soon after her graduation and landing the part proved to be the starting point of her cinematic journey. Five years later, she shows no sign of slowing down. She has five movies as an actor and one as a producer in the south languages.
In Kaanekkaane (2021) and PPKV (Jan 2022), Aishwarya played characters engulfed in grief and agony. The actor, initially known for her happy-go-lucky characters sees these films as a way to break out of that image. “When I chose Kaaneka- ane, people warned me not to play the ‘other woman’, fearing society’s outlook towards such characters. However, the writing convinced me that there is no right or wrong about playing such complex characters,” she says.
Agony, Aishwarya shares, is not an easy emotion to enact. “I did a Telugu film that deals with domestic violence, and I was traumatised for a long period. I couldn’t stop crying even after the director called ‘cut’.”
Her acting process involves her developing empathy for her characters. “I believe in acting that seeps from your subconscious. For instance, to understand how grief works, I spoke to a couple of my friends who lost their dear ones. I noticed quite a few things in common between them and it helped me play my character better.” Aishwarya’s February 2022 release Archana 31 Not Out in Malayalam was her first as a solo lead. “It is a small- budget film made by a young team. My next, Kumari, also a woman-centric project, is in complete contrast to Archana. The scale is much bigger, and it adds to the pressure.”
In Godse, her debut in Telugu this June saw her in an action-packed avatar.
“Even how I walk in this film is different from how I walk in a Malayalam film. I play an investigative officer who has a sense of purpose. This was challenging for me because I’m a rather sloppy person,” she confesses.
Today, more than ever, there’s a lot of discourse on the social impact of cinema. In her breakout film, Mayaanadhi (2017), Aishwarya’s character was lauded for her choices, but there was also backlash. The audience needs to be politically correct, not the films, she states. “Certain films are made purely for entertainment. One needs to show discretion while consuming them. There cannot be an ultimatum that every single element of a film should be politically correct. I don’t think art can be made under such restrictions,” says the actor.
Aishwarya’s lips are sealed when it comes to Ponniyin Selvan, but she does share that it was a memorable experience watching all the magic unfold. “I never imagined I would be part of a Mani Ratnam film. It’s an experience to see him do what he does best. He keeps things simple. It felt like he was filming a ‘small’ film, but trust me, Ponniyin Selvan will truly be a spectacle,” she says.
The list goes on...
✥ Captain Miller with Dhanush
✥ Kumari directed by Nirmal Sahadev
✥ Vishnu Vishal’s bilingual Gatta Kushti
✥ Karthik Subbaraju’s Ammu
✥ King of Kotha opposite Dulquer Salman
✥ Gargi with Sai Pallavi as producer